Seven Alabama teams set for key playoff basketball games

dmitchell@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 12, 2014 

In this file photo, Central's Anthony Moore takes the ball downcourt on a steal against Smiths Station earlier this season. On Friday, Central lost to Carver of Montgomery 59-56, as the Wolverines hit a buzzer-beater from midcourt.

JOE PAULL — Buy Photo

All four Alabama area schools will have basketball teams competing in state playoff games this week, beginning with the Central girls on Thursday.

It is one of the busiest postseason slates for the four schools with seven of eight girls and boys teams making the postseason.

Both Russell County squads will host sub-region contests in Class 5A, both Glenwood teams will play in the AISA Class 3A final four, the Central boys host a sub-region contest while the girls play on the road in 6A, and the Smiths Station boys play a sub-region game on the road.

Here’s a closer look at each school’s upcoming contests.

Russell County: boys vs. Saraland at home; girls vs. Saraland at home

Both boys and girls teams won their respective area tournaments to earn the right to host sub-region contests in Class 5A.

For the girls, their area tournament victory completed an overhaul from a season that appeared to be a lost cause a month ago. After beginning the season 0-10, the Lady Warriors have won 10 straight games to get their record to 10-10.

“We could have easily just folded shop, but we chose to fight and so far it’s paid off,” coach Shawn Taylor said in an email.

It is the first time in three years the team has hosted a sub-region playoff game. The boys will host as well.

Both games will be Friday night, with the girls scheduled to tip at 6 p.m. Russell County will hold a “white out” and request all fans to wear a white shirt. Taylor said the first 75 Russell County fans to buy a ticket will receive a shirt at the door.

Glenwood: boys vs. Lee-Scott in final four; girls vs. Evangel in final four

After a weather delay pushed back the AISA final four, both the Glenwood girls and boys are set to play their respective games on Friday, with the championship games now scheduled for Tuesday. All games will be played in Montgomery.

It’s a familiar position for the Gators. Both teams played for a championship last season, with the boys coming out on top. In seven seasons under Dusty Perdue, the boys have made the final four six times and won a state championship twice.

“Hopefully we can make it three this year,” Perdue said Wednesday.

His Gators are the favorites. At 28-2, they will face Lee-Scott, a team they have already beaten twice this season. Perdue knows how difficult a third game can be, though, and his guys are taking nothing for granted.

“(Lee-Scott) is a good team, very well coached,” he said. “I’m sure he’s told them to forget those other two games. A win to knock out Glenwood would make their year.”

Led by four seniors and a junior — Ant Holtzclaw, Alex Hicks, J.T. Thomas, Tanner Thomason and Lawson Humphries — the Gators have a combination of size, speed and experience few teams can match.

Central: boys vs. Jeff Davis at home; girls at Jeff Davis

An area championship win over Smiths Station on Monday may have been the biggest win of the season thus far for the Central boys. Players downplayed the win as just another game after the contest, but the significance can’t be understated.

Rather than traveling to Carver-Montgomery, one of the state’s best teams, Central will host Jeff Davis. The latter, with a record of 18-8, is of course no slouch itself.

At 25-1, however, Central has proven itself to be among the very best in the state.

The Lady Red Devils, meanwhile, lost the area championship to Opelika, but still clinched a playoff berth and a 17-7 record despite the absence of arguably their best player.

Jimecheia Banks has been out for more than three weeks after spraining her knee in a win against Opelika on Jan. 17. Banks will again be absent on Thursday. Coach Carolyn Wright said doctors checked out her knee on Wednesday and determined she’d have to sit for another week.

As to the status of Thursday night’s game — which is the only Bi-City area game yet to be affected by winter weather — Wright said officials would continue to monitor conditions on Thursday morning before making any adjustments to the schedule.

Smiths Station: boys at Carver-Montgomery

After coming up just short of a playoff berth in the area tournament a year ago, the Panthers earned a trip by advancing to the area finals this season.

Despite a loss to Central in the final, the Panthers are still alive at the state level and will travel to Carver-Montgomery on Friday. Carver-Montgomery defeated Jeff Davis 70-53 to earn the right to host a sub-region game.

At 17-12, Smiths Station has had its ups and downs this season, but is led by a core of senior players like big man Mike Hardin and point guard and point guard DeVante Marshall.

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